‘We’re ready for Irina’

2012-03-06 07:45

With fresh threats of the return of tropical storm Irina looming over KwaZulu-Natal, the department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) in the province maintains it is ready for whatever devastation she threatens.

The effects of Irina over the weekend – rough seas, water-locked yards, flooded homes, overflowing rivers and pockets of water on the roads – were still being felt in the province yesterday as clean-up operations were underway.

But before the damage had been adequately assessed, weather forecasters expected Irina to make her way back to the country.

Elizabeth Webster, a forecaster with the South African Weather Service, said that while the storm was expected to move away from the country in an east-north-easterly direction, Irina would make her way back tomorrow.

“Showers over the KwaZulu-Natal interior will clear up by Tuesday (today). Light rain might persist along the coast at first but the storm will continue to move away. But it will make its way back. It is hard to say at this stage how close it will get but it will probably be at its closest on Friday.

“At this stage we have not issued any warnings. But we continue to monitor it.”

Irina, who was downgraded from a cyclone to a moderate tropical storm, is believed to have been bullied away by a sudden cold front pushing in from the country’s south-western coast.

According to Webster, Irina maintained a distance of 400km over the weekend, resulting in heavy rainfall over Swaziland, southern Mozambique and parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

But her effects were felt. Rainfall of up to 254.8mm was recorded in Charters Creek on Saturday and as much as 140mm in Durban on Sunday.

There have been no deaths as a results of the storms but at least 48 families have been affected, according to Cogta spokesperson Vernon Mchunu.

Six of these families have had to be relocated to community halls after their homes were completely destroyed, he said.

A 56-year-old woman is currently being treated for broken legs at a local hospital after her home in Jozini collapsed. Mchunu said no other injuries have been reported.

Four men who were feared to have drowned caused a stir on Sunday when their makeshift boat capsized while trying to cross a river in Mtubatuba. The men were saved through rescue operations.

Mchunu said disaster response personnel, including about 420 road traffic inspectorate officers, are on high alert.

Search and rescue personnel, the dog unit and police divers are also on standby. Local hospitals are ready to deal with large number of patients should a need for additional medical facilities arise, said Mchunu.

Military helicopters are on standby.

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